Haggerty's NHL Stanley Cup Playoff preview

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Haggerty's NHL Stanley Cup Playoff preview

The time that hockey players call the real season has arrived. Its the best time of the year in the NHL.

Hockey clubs have built through 82 games of broken teeth, sprained knees, crippling concussions and ice bags aplenty to make it inside the top eight in their respective conferences, now the fun begins Wednesday night.

It comes down to guys doing their respective jobs on the ice and playing their roles. Whichever team does that best will hold the Cup overhead in June.

What did we say over and over and over last year? You take it one game at a time, one period at a time, and one shift at a time, said Tim Thomas, who was deemed the most valuable of all those playoff performers last season. It sounds clich but if we want a chance to do it again thats how we have to prepare.

You dont look at it like you need to win the Cup. You focus on the now and each individual game. We did a great job of breaking it down with that attitude, especially as the playoffs went on last year. Thats what helped us get through it.

Its amazing to think how much people talked about Vancouvers struggles this season yet they come away with the Presidents Trophy for the second straight season. Meanwhile four other teams harbor Cup dreams out West after putting together 100-point seasons (Detroit, St. Louis, Nashville and Chicago) and perhaps the two most talented teams rounded out the elite eight with both the Sharks and Los Angeles Kings just getting into the bubble.

In the Eastern Conference things are just as hotly contested. Where the Bruins and Lightning somehow managed to get to the conference finals once the top two seeds had bowed out ungracefully, this year would be appear to be much different. The most plausible playoff run for the Bruins would force them to beat the Capitals, Penguins and Rangers in succession to get back to the Cup Finals, and that is a daunting postseason task.

Each time will espouse the one-game-at-a-time philosophy and the beards will be magnificent, but here are some CSNNE.com postseason predictions to chew on as playoff hockey gets under way:

First round matchups in Eastern Conference
(1) New York Rangers vs. (8) Ottawa Senators. Winner: Rangers in 5. King Henrik and Rags finally get out of the first round.

(2) Boston Bruins vs. (7) Washington Capitals. Winner: Bruins in 7. Bruins have too much depth and Caps have too many defensive weak spots.

(3) Florida Panthers vs. (6) New Jersey Devils. Winner: Devils in 6. Florida just happy to be in the playoffs for once.

(4) Pittsburgh Penguins vs. (5) Philadelphia Flyers. Winner: Penguins in 7. The Penguins earn everything they get with a tough start to their road through playoffs.

Eastern Conference Semifinals
Bruins vs. Penguins: Penguins in 7. If healthy the Penguins are a slightly better team with the Bruins missing Horton.

Rangers vs. Devils: Rangers in 6. The Rangers are built for the playoffs and they prove it in tri-state grudge match.

Eastern Conference Finals
Rangers vs. Penguins: Penguins in 5. Battle-hardened Penguins can taste the Cup at this point.

First Round matchups in Western Conference
Vancouver Canucks vs. (8) Los Angeles Kings. Winner: Kings in 6. Richards and Carter finally stay on Dry Island for the playoffs.

St. Louis Blues vs. San Jose Sharks. Winner: Sharks in 5. Blues have been a nice regular season story, but have first round shocker written all over them.

Phoenix Coyotes vs. Chicago Blackhawks: Winner: Blackhawks in 6. The Hawks are the better team and continue the underdog theme.

Nashville Predators vs. Detroit Red Wings. Winner: Nashville in 7. The Predators have chosen to go for broke this season and they start by knocking off a formidable Wings crew.

Western Conference Semifinals
Predators vs. Kings. Winner: Predators in 6. Nashville gets what they earned through this season, a chance to get to the Finals.

Sharks vs. Blackhawks. Winner: Sharks in 7. San Jose slacked through the year, but plays well when it counts in a bizarre reversal of fortune for them.

Western Conference Finals
Predators vs. Sharks: Predators in 7. Nashville gets their final hurrah with Weber, Suter, Rinne, Radulov and the rest of the Preds bunch along for the ride.

Stanley Cup Finals
Penguins over Predators in 6 games. Its time to once again crown Sid the Kid and his Penguins.

Conn Smythe Trophy winner
Evgeni Malkin

Alarm-puller: ‘I’m drunk. I’m stupid. I’m a Pats fan’

Alarm-puller: ‘I’m drunk. I’m stupid. I’m a Pats fan’

Intentionally or otherwise, the guy who allegedly pulled the fire alarm at the Steelers’ hotel Sunday morning may have also provided the average Bud Light-loving Bostonian a new motto. 

“I’m drunk. I’m stupid. I’m a Pats fan,” Dennis Harrison told police after he was arrested, according to the Boston Globe.  

Citing the State Police report, the Globe wrote Monday that Harrison was talked into pulling the alarm while at a party in Revere, with a friend driving the 25-year-old to the Boston Hilton Logan Airport hotel Sunday morning. 

Harrison reportedly walked up to the second floor and pulled the fire alarm before returning to the car, but his friend and the keys were gone. He was then picked up by police while walking away from the hotel. 

According to the Globe, Harrison pleaded not guilty to charges of disorderly conduct, disturbing the peace and setting off a false fire alarm Monday and was released on personal recognizance.
 

Belichick missed Bennett dancing with cheerleaders: 'We'll have to get a replay'

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Belichick missed Bennett dancing with cheerleaders: 'We'll have to get a replay'

Martellus Bennett wanted to party. The nine-year veteran had just stamped his first trip to the Super Bowl, and he was going to celebrate by doing things that would be quintessential "Football Marty." 

He grabbed some pom-poms and danced with Patriots cheerleaders.

He planned to Facetime his brother Michael, Pro Bowl defensive lineman for the Seahawks, and talk trash. "Now I’m going to the Super Bowl, mother[expletive]. Meet me in Houston."

He talked about how he'd do some baking. "Making myself a cake, and I am going to write, 'You're awesome' on the cake, and sit there, and I'll probably eat the whole thing and regret it tomorrow because I have to make sure I make weight."

It wasn't a typical reaction to making it to the final game of the season, not for a locker room half-full with players who have been there before. But it was genuine. And even Patriots coach Bill Belichick, often thought of as the no-fun police captain headquartered at Gillette Stadium, those kinds of emotions were worth appreciating.

"Yeah, I missed all of the dancing with the cheerleaders. Sorry. We’ll have to get a replay on that," Belichick said on a conference call Monday. "But you know, I’d say just in general . . . obviously it was a great win for our team and our organization last night, but it’s great to see the players who have worked so hard take so much satisfaction in their relationship with their teammates and the goal that they accomplished last night.

"Another step in a season where the team has already won 16 games but it was another significant step. When you see them reacting and congratulating each other and celebrating like that, you know you have a closeness on the team that is special. I mentioned that last night and it’s true. These guys, they work hard.

"They put up with a lot from me and they put up with a lot of significant demands and requirements here, but it’s done with the intent to try and produce a good product and a good team. They buy into it. They perform well in critical situations like last night. I take a lot of satisfaction in seeing them achieve that because they’ve worked so hard for it and I think they deserve it, but you’ve got to go out and prove it."

In order to emphasize the point that the Patriots had proved it, that they were more than a group of hard-workers, Belichick referenced a book by Jerry Izenberg that tracked the Giants for a week in 1989 -- when Belichick was defensive coordinator -- titled "No Medals for Trying." 

"This time of year everybody tries hard," Belichick said. "Everybody has a good team that is still playing. You’re only rewarded for achievement. Last night we were fortunate enough to earn that. It’s a great feeling to see everybody have that kind of interaction with each other and feel so good about their teammates and the guys they’ve worked so hard with."